Journal news

Tortoise orchiectomy - treatment tool or management option?

While orchiectomy has been previously described in chelonian species,1,2 the paper by Hatt and colleagues, summarised on page 555 of this issue of Vet Record, contributes not just further advice on the technicalities of the surgery but also assesses its effects on courtship behaviour in Testudo species.3

From the technical aspect, Hatt and colleagues,3 by evaluating surgery over a period of time rather than in a single short study, have been able to demonstrate that surgery is easiest to perform in late spring when testes are smaller – a useful tip for anyone attempting what is a complex surgery.

Furthermore, from a clinician’s point of view, the study is interesting in that it looks at pet tortoises presenting with exaggerated courtship behaviours and how these behaviours have been affected by orchiectomy. These behaviours are a common problem in captive tortoises and...

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Orchiectomy in Testudo species: technical aspects and effect on courtship behaviour

Courtship behaviour of tortoises includes biting, ramming, chasing, same-sex sexual behaviour, and it commonly is excessive in European tortoise species kept as pets. As a result, males are kept individually. To assess the effect of orchiectomy on excessive courtship behaviour in European tortoises, 50 tortoises (Testudo graeca, T hermanni and T marginata) underwent endoscopically assisted orchiectomy from April through September 2013 to 2017. Statistical analyses were performed in relation to species, body mass, testicular size and season and owners were invited to fill out a follow-up questionnaire. Body mass of the tortoises ranged from 334 to 2645 g (mean 1056 g) and the age from 5 to estimated 60 years. Testicular length ranged from 1.4 to 7.0 cm (mean 2.7 cm) and testicular mass from 0.6 to 12.6 g (mean 3.9 g). A complete or partial reduction (allowing group-housing) of the excessive courtship behaviour was noted by 95 per cent of owners and 59 per cent of the owners reported a noticeable change of behaviour within a month of surgery. Given the seasonal variation in testicular size, the best period for castrations in male European tortoises is shortly after brumation (April, May), when testes are proportionally smaller.

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Syndromic surveillance by veterinary practitioners: a pilot study in the pig sector

Traditional indicator-based livestock surveillance has been focused on case definitions, definitive diagnoses and laboratory confirmation. The use of syndromic disease surveillance would increase the population base from which animal health data are captured and facilitate earlier detection of new and re-emerging threats to animal health. Veterinary practitioners could potentially play a vital role in such activities. In a pilot study, specialist private veterinary practitioners (PVP) working in the English pig industry were asked to collect and transfer background data and disease incident reports for pig farms visited during the study period. Baseline data from 110 pig farms were received, along with 68 disease incident reports. Reports took an average of approximately 25 minutes to complete. Feedback from the PVPs indicated that they saw value in syndromic surveillance. Maintenance of anonymity in the outputs would be essential, as would timely access for the PVPs to relevant information on syndromic trends. Further guidance and standardisation would also be required. Syndromic surveillance by PVPs is possible for the pig industry. It has potential to fill current gaps in the collection of animal health data, as long as the engagement and participation of data providers can be obtained and maintained.

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Assessing veterinary students using in-training evaluation scores: what is being assessed?

In-training evaluations are commonly used for assessing veterinary students during clinical training, but are criticised for being unable to discriminate dimensions of performance. This study investigated scores on an in-training evaluation in use at one veterinary school to determine the dimensions being assessed and the influence of the dimensions on the overall score awarded. Common factor analysis and ordinal logistic regression were conducted on a retrospective sample of 3466 evaluations of 197 final year veterinary students. The findings suggested a higher-order dimensional structure, with one overarching factor and two to four subfactors, consistent with the complex construct of competency that thSAS Institute e assessment was intended to assess. In the four -factor model, all dimensions were significantly related to overall grade, with the effects of the professional attitude factor and the knowledge factor dependent on the placement. The professional attitude factor had the strongest effect on overall grade (β=2.71, P=0.0004). There was a significant effect of placement on overall grade (P=0.021). Neither academic status of the supervisor nor grade point average had significant effects on the overall grade (P>0.49), and a student’s overall grade did not significantly differ over time (P=1). The results suggest that the complexity of supervisor judgement is effectively represented in evaluation scores.

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Selected highlights from other journals

Vets’ attitudes towards antimicrobial use in pigs

L. A. Coyne, S. M. Latham, S. Dawson and others

Preventive Veterinary Medicine (2018) 161, 115–126

doi: 10.1016/j.prevetmed.2018.10.021

• What did the research find?

Overall, vets were confident that their prescribing decisions were responsible. However, there was concern that the prescribing behaviours of other vets may be less responsible. Similarly, they seldom identified that treatment failure was a consequence of antimicrobial resistance in their own clinical caseload, but they considered it an issue for others. The decision on whether to prescribe antimicrobials was influenced by numerous factors relating to the vet’s experience and the clinical situation presented, but maintaining animal welfare was a priority.

• How was it conducted?

A questionnaire was distributed to 261 veterinary surgeons in the UK who had a clinical caseload that included commercial pig farms. This questionnaire aimed to explore participants’ antimicrobial prescribing behaviours, their attitudes to...

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Herriots way inspired a generation

The current BSAVA president’s criticism of James Herriot/Alf Wight is inappropriate, if not arrogant (VR, 27 April 2019, vol 184, p 514).

The James Herriot image allowed the profession to be uniquely popular with, and respected by, the public for many years

Alf Wight’s books inspired countless young people and encouraged their ambitions to become veterinary surgeons, causing veterinary medicine to become one of the most popular university courses with the highest standards of selection. The James Herriot image allowed the profession to be uniquely popular with, and respected by, the public for many years. Sadly that popularity and respect is now being destroyed by the blatant profit motive of many practice owners.

David Napley, when president of the IPG (interprofessional group), once defined being in a ‘profession’ to me as ‘being paid to allow you to do the work which you did’, in contrast to a trade...

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African swine fever spread in China

African swine fever (ASF), caused by ASF virus (ASFV), is one of the most serious infectious diseases affecting pigs.

In 1921, ASFV was first discovered in Kenya, Eastern Africa.1 In the 1950s, it rapidly spread across Europe including Spain, Portugal, Italy and France. But in the mid-1990s, ASFV was eradicated from Europe, with the exception of Sardinia. However, it was introduced into Georgia in 2007, and then spread through Eastern Europe, including Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, Moldova, Czech Republic and Poland.2

In August 2018, ASFV entered into China, which has over 50 per cent of the world’s pig population.3,4 Up to April 2019, over 100 ASF cases had been officially reported in China. These cases covered almost all the provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities of China, with the exception of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao. So why has...

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Keeping snakes

Tariq Abou-Zahr (VR, 10 November 2018, vol 183, pp 572-573; 2 February 2019, vol 184, pp 157-158; 20 April 2019, vol 184, pp 505-506) believes keeping snakes in enclosures shorter than they are does not prevent their welfare needs from being met, as required by the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (AWA). Yet he acknowledges that doing so prevents snakes from performing normal behaviours – including being able to stretch to full length, perform rectilinear locomotion, and being able to travel further than their own body length – and states ‘clearly it is to be advocated that enclosures should be as spacious as possible in most circumstances’.

Although wild snakes have home ranges of several hectares or more, and some pet species are highly active, exploratory, foraging predators, Abou-Zahr argues that because captive snakes have food, water, a temperature gradient and no predators, they do not need or want their...

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Prevalence of Seoul hantavirus in UK wild rats: an emerging public health problem?

Seoul hantavirus (SEOV) is an emerging zoonotic pathogen in the UK. SEOV is transmitted from infected rats to people via inhalation of aerosolised virus in rat urine and faeces. Infected rats are asymptomatic and are likely to remain persistently infected while intermittently excreting the virus throughout their life.1

The virus was first identified in laboratory rats in Scotland in 1977.2 Since this time, a number of serosurveillance studies in the UK have shown serological evidence of exposure to hantaviruses.3 From these studies, the main risk factor for hantavirus infection was thought to be occupational exposure, particularly for those working in rural areas (eg, agricultural workers), pest control workers and sewage workers.

In these studies, those testing positive for antibodies to hantaviruses reported mild symptoms such as flu-like symptoms and sore throat, with some exhibiting minor liver and kidney impairment. However, as the diagnostic...

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Detection of Seoul virus in wild brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) from pig farms in Northern England


Hantaviruses are maintained by mammalian hosts, such as rodents, and are shed in their excretions. Clinical disease can occur in humans from spillover infection. Brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) are the globally distributed reservoir host of Seoul virus (SEOV). Human cases of SEOV-associated haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (SEOV-HFRS)have been reported in Great Britain (GB) since 1977.


Brown rats (n=68) were trapped from a variety of peridomestic locations, with a focus on pig farms. Kidney and lung tissues were tested for viral RNA using a pan-hantavirus RT-PCR assay followed by Sanger sequencing and analysis.


SEOV RNA was detected in 19 per cent (13/68, 95% CI 11 to 30) of rats and all sequences fell within SEOV lineage 9. Twelve sequences were highly similar to each other and to the previously reported GB Humber strain of SEOV (98 per cent). One rat SEOV sequence was more distant. The SEOV prevalence in rats from pig farms was significantly greater (p=0.047) than other sites sampled. No significant sex or age differences were observed among positive and negative rats.


The results from this study suggest that SEOV could be widespread in wild rats in GB and therefore pose a potential risk to public health.

Categories: Journal news

Chronic kidney disease in cats attending primary care practice in the UK: a VetCompassTM study

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a frequent diagnosis in cats attending primary care practice and the most frequent cause of death in cats aged over five years, yet there is limited published research for CKD in cats attending primary care practice. This study aimed to estimate the prevalence of CKD and investigate risk factors for diagnosis and survival of cats diagnosed with CKD in UK primary care practices. The study included cats attending VetCompassTM practices from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2013. A nested case-control and cohort study were undertaken. From 353,448 cats attending 244 clinics, the prevalence of CKD was estimated as 1.2 per cent (95 per cent CI 1.1 per cent to 1.3 per cent). Most cats with CKD had clinical signs at diagnosis (66.6 per cent). Few cats underwent investigations or monitoring of serum creatinine (32.6 per cent), urine protein:creatinine ratio (14.9 per cent) or blood pressure measurement (25.6 per cent). A proprietary renal diet was the most frequently prescribed management (63.8 per cent). Median survival time following diagnosis was 388 days (IQR 88–1042 days). This study provides generalisable evidence from the wider cat population to aid veterinarians in improved diagnosis and management of CKD that can benefit the health and welfare of cats with CKD in the UK.

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Palmar/plantar approach for radiographic-guided injection of the equine distal interphalangeal joint collateral ligament insertion

There are limited radiographic-guided injection techniques of the insertion of the distal interphalangeal joint (DIPJ) collateral ligaments. The objective of this study was to develop and evaluate a palmar/plantar radiographic-guided injection of the collateral ligament insertion in cadavers. Fifty limbs were used to develop the technique and 24 additional limbs were used to evaluate accuracy. An 18 G, 9 cm spinal needle was placed in the depression between the palmar digital neurovascular bundle and arch of the ungular cartilage with dorsodistal advancement towards the distal phalanx collateral fossa. Radiographs verified ideal needle location on the proximal border of the distal phalanx at the collateral fossa. Dye was injected. Hoof walls were partially removed and collateral ligaments were dissected with needles in place to determine needle and dye location. Accuracy of needle placement into the insertion of the DIPJ collateral ligament was 41/48 (85 per cent), with lower accuracy of dye within the ligament (34/48; 71 per cent). Dye entered the DIPJ in 2/48 injections, but dye entered periligamentous structures in 22/48 (46 per cent) injections. A palmar/plantar radiographic-guided injection of the insertion of the DIPJ collateral ligament had high accuracy rate with low injection rate of the DIPJ in cadavers.

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Selected highlights from other journals

Carnitine insufficiency linked to obesity in dogs

J. Söder, K. Höglund, J. Dicksved and others

Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica (2019) 61

doi: 10.1186/s13028-019-0446-4

• What did the research find?

A postprandial increase in amino acid concentrations was detected in all the sampled dogs, but, in contrast with findings in people, the obese dogs did not exhibit higher concentrations than the lean dogs. Lower free carnitine concentrations were found in obese dogs compared with lean dogs. However, no effect of meal intake on plasma concentrations of carnitine was observed, despite the test food containing meat-derived carnitine precursors.

• How was it conducted?

Twenty-eight healthy male Labrador retriever dogs were included in this study. Of these 12 were classified as lean and 16 were classified as obese. Blood samples were collected after an overnight fast (14 to 17 hours). The dogs were then fed a high-fat meal, and postprandial blood samples were...

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Gender pay gap

It was shocking and disappointing to find two of the four largest gender pay gaps in British companies with over 5000 employees are at veterinary corporates – Independent Vetcare and CVS.1

Gender pay gaps can also reflect a lack of women in senior positions and a lack of parity in pay

Gender pay gaps are often attributed to disproportionately more lower paid roles being filled by women, and to family-friendly policies on part-time working. However, they can also reflect a lack of women in senior positions and a lack of parity in pay.

In light of the recent work done by Michelle Ryan and Chris Begeny on gender discrimination and pay in the veterinary profession (VR, 17 November 2018, vol 183, p 580), it seems timely to ask for an explanation and justification of these findings.

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EU listing of the UK

Your report on the UK being approved as a listed third country (VR, 13 April 2019, vol 184, p 460) failed to mention that the UK has had to demonstrate that we meet the stringent health and biosecurity requirements to trade with EU countries. It is important to stress that, although the process has been expedited, the requirements have not been watered down.

We want to pay tribute to the incredibly hard work of government vets and their policy colleagues across the four administrations of the UK who are the unsung heroes of this achievement.

Amid all of the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, the announcement was certainly a very welcome piece of news. It doesn’t detract from the pressure of the increased need for veterinary certification, but it avoids the nightmare scenario that many vets and farmers feared – that no animals or animal products could be exported in a...

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Prepurchase consultation resources

The PDSA fully supports BVA junior vice president, Daniella Dos Santos, in her promotion of prepurchase consultations (VR, 13 April 2019, vol 184, p 459). To assist veterinary teams to deliver these consultations, we would like to highlight PDSA’s WhichPet? resources, which are free for all veterinary practices to download from

Lack of prepurchase research is identified as an important root cause of many preventable health and welfare problems in companion animals; the 2018 PDSA animal wellbeing (PAW) report found that 5.2 million pet owners (24 per cent) did no research at all before taking on their pet.1

The BVA and British Veterinary Nurse Association voice of the profession survey results, reported in the 2018 PAW report, show that 13 per cent of practices are now offering free, dedicated prepurchase clinics. Veterinary professionals estimate that 71 per cent of potential pet owners join the...

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Aggressive skin lesions in pigs

We would like to report a case of an aggressive skin lesion of unknown aetiology in two pigs.

The shedding of large, crusting areas of epidermis was observed, and the underlying dermis was purulent, raw and intensely painful

The affected animals, nine-month-old saddleback gilts, were living in a paddock of approximately 20 animals. Lesions were pyodermic, non-pruritic and primarily localised to the shoulders with lesser degrees of erosion from the top of the head down to the lower back. Both pigmented and non-pigmented skin was affected. The shedding of large, crusting areas of epidermis was observed, and the underlying dermis was purulent, raw and intensely painful.

Initial treatment with oxytetracycline hydrochloride topical spray and a single dose of amoxicillin trihydrate did not show any clinical benefit. Complete recovery was achieved by administering lincomycin hydrochloride and meloxicam daily for five days and continuing the use of the topical oxytetracycline...

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Seizures in cats caused by eating

We are seeking cases of suspected seizures in cats triggered by one or more elements of eating for phenotypic characterisation. The aim is that this will help with future management and understanding of this very rare and complex disorder.

Eating is defined by the act of putting food into the mouth followed by chewing and swallowing. As well as eating, other specific food-related stimuli like mastication, the thought or sight of food, or just drinking can also trigger ‘eating’ seizures.1-3 These seizures occur in approximately only one per 1000 to 2000 of all human epileptic patients,1 can be of variable semiology4 but have never been reported in cats.

In people, eating seizures are frequently classified as a reflex seizure, which is defined as one consistently precipitated by environmental or internal stimuli and is differentiated from spontaneous epileptic seizures in which precipitating...

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Goat medicine and diseases: a guide for practitioners

Reviewed by Pam Brown a mixed practice vet at Alnorthumbria Vets, Wooler.

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New book on common conditions seen in donkeys

The Clinical Companion of the Donkey is the brand new and completely updated guide to common conditions in donkeys produced by the international animal welfare charity The Donkey Sanctuary.

The book is a multiauthor text with contributions from vets, equine dental technicians, harness specialists, behaviourists and researchers – all with extensive, practical donkey experience.

Clearly laid out with bullet points and highlighted text boxes, the book is well illustrated with clear photographs showing clinical conditions. There are seven appendices that can be used as quick reference guides to help vets in practice.

Without covering the same ground as other excellent textbooks, The Clinical Companion of the Donkey concentrates on those differences in the equine species that are specific to the donkey. A new chapter on donkey behaviour has been included, as this is fundamental to understanding this unique animal’s requirements for handling, nursing and treatment and the presentation of...

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